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Clean Water - A Guide for Auto Services

Know Where Your Drains Go

Did you know that many street drains empty directly into our rivers and streams? Pollutants that sit on properties and roadways throughout the District are picked up by storm water from heavy rains, and piped straight to our rivers. This means that everything you do can harm our waters. Even something as simple as storing used auto parts outside can degrade the environment, and lower the quality of life for District residents. Luckily there are many simple steps you can take to ensure a revitalization of the District’s waterways for future generations.

Keep the System Clean

Automotive fluids of any sort should never be allowed to enter your drains. Most importantly you should never use a hose to clean spills on your facility.

Whether substances are dumped directly into a drain, or are washed from your property into the drain during a heavy rainfall, it is illegal to discharge a pollutant to district waters. As a business, you are responsible.

Pollution Prevention: The Green Advantage

The benefits of updating your business practices and keeping a clean shop are real:

  • Cost Savings: clean practices can decrease storage, treatment, and disposal costs
  • Enhanced public image: Consumers view clean businesses favorably. Marketing your green business practices can set you apart, and increase profits.
  • Regulatory relief: Following good housekeeping measures makes it easier to achieve and maintain compliance with District regulations.
  • Reduced liability, exposure and health risk: Cleaner practices mean less liability for environmental issues on your property. This also means less exposure to toxic chemicals and a decreased threat to human health.
  • A cleaner nation's capital: Your cooperation can help make us proud to call the District of Columbia our home.

No Matter What You Do...

  • NEVER dump any pollutants down a drain or onto a public space...
  • NEVER hose down your work area...
  • NEVER put used hazardous materials in the trash heading to the landfills...
  • NEVER bury, dump, or burn any automotive fluids…
  • NEVER let automotive fluids accumulate on your property whether it is paved or dirt.

A Small Spill is a Big Deal! Did You Know...

  • One quart of oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of water.
  • Anti-freeze is highly toxic and can kill fish and animals, yet has a sweet smell and taste that is attractive to children and pets.
  • Junked cars, automotive parts, and car batteries left outside can leak oil, grease, acid, or anti-freeze to street drains.
  • Used oil filters can contain 3 to 4 ounces of motor oil. With 400 million oil filters disposed of each year in the United States, this translates into over 12 million gallons of oil.
  • Standing water in tire wells not only contains the pollutants from the tire, but also creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease.

Good Housekeeping is Good Business

Minimize your impact and follow these guidelines:

  • Dispose of solvents, degreasers and used automoritve fluids properly. Large drums must be clearly labeled, capped, and free of debris. Do not allow containers to deteriorate. Repair any structural damage immediately!
  • Use absorbent materials to clean fluid spills. Sand or cat litter can be used for this purpose. Small spills and drips can be wiped clean with rags, which should be laundered through a contractor.
  • Keep used auto parts away from the elements. Junk cars, car batteries, engines, and tires should be covered completely, stored inside, or removed from the premises. In case of a battery acid spill, neutralize with baking soda.
  • NEVER hose down the floor of your work area. Broom should be the preferred method of cleaning. If necessary use a mild detergent specially formulated for automotive spills. Wash water should never be dumped down a floor drain.
  • Drain used oil flters prior to disposal. Keep filters protected from the weather and stored in locations where they will not drip.

Water Pollution Control Act - Common Infractions and Penalties

Nature of Infraction Fine
Discharging pollutants to the waters of the District without a permit $2,000
Discharging used motor oil into a sewer $1,000
Discharging corrosive, flammable, or explosive material into a sewer $1,000
Discharging oil, gasoline, antifreeze, acid or other hazardous substance, pollutant or nuisance material on a public space $500

Download a brochure with this information [PDF]

For spills of more than 50 gallons, call Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, (202) 727-6161, 

Contact TTY: 
711